Tag Archives: wild herbs

Edibles at Bristol Harbour

This week, I am with my family in the UK. We began the visit on Tuesday with a stroll around the harbour area of my birthtown Bristol.  What a pleasure to be there! In addition to the whole harbour area being very spruced up since I lived there, the weather is exceptional for this time of year; beautiful sunshine,  stunning skies and it is warm – well for February anyway!

Leucanthemum vulgare (dog daisy, about to flower)

After a peek at the SS Great Britain, visiting a great whole food store (which sells oxalis tubers to eat!) and filling our bellies with fish and chips at Wrapping Warf , we wandered around the Arnolfini and Watershed areas.

Ship shape and Bristol Fashion – I loved growing up in this city and I love to come back and visit!

I took a few snaps of edibles which I noticed along the way. The place is very tidy, and popular so most of the plants that I found are resilient perennials. Just look at this little beauty: Ivy Leaved Toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis), sometimes called the Climbing Sailor which makes it so suitable for this nautical location!  What lovely geranium-like rubbery leaves. I do enjoy a nibble on this sort-of-cress-tasting-plant when I find it growing abundantly.  Today was neither the time nor place so the plants spotted in Bristol, carving out a quiet existence in the ship shape hustle and bustle, were left in peace.


Climbing sailors – Cymbalaria muralis

Now, along this old railway track – a remnant of the old coal dock, I did find a lovely (if small) selection of urban edibles including Herb Robert (Geranium robertum), Chickweed (Stellaria media) and Mugwort (Artemisia vulgare).

And here some of what I believe is Common Mouse-ear (Cerastium fontanum). Very pretty, clustered chickweed-like flowers, bouncing in the breeze, a top leafless stalks. I find this a stunning little edible. Darned tasty (if a little hairy on the tongue) and very fertile. So, if you can access one in a location that it flavours, you will not go hungry.



The only place that I found around the harbour which was worthy of some urban herb harvesting was on the sloping path that runs towards the little ferry (to the SS Great Britain). There is a quiet green patch, full of brambles, stinging nettle and other lovelies. The plants are starting to build their foliage now so best left for now but in a month or so, that patch should be brimming with nettle tops and bramble buds. I find Bramble leaf buds a great source of fruity-tannic flavour, vitamins and minerals. By shrewd nibbing-out of buds, you can control the growth of a bramble patch in seconds whilst building up an interesting wild tea in your caddy.

So that was my little February Bristol Harbour edibles wander.  I am in Chepstow now, thoroughly enjoying the sounds, sights, taste and company. Will try to make a compilation of Chepstow forage-ables, before the week is out.

Want more?
If you want to learn about the edibles growing near you, how to ID, safely & ethically forage and how to include them in your life, take a look at my course. I would love to help you along your urban herbology journey!



365 Frankendael

Many visitors to this site are interested in wild herbs and foraging. As you probably know, I do my foraging in the city of Amsterdam and am keen to encourage more of you to learn about the herbs around you. Often those I speak to are unaware that right here in Amsterdam, there are herbs to be foraged every single day of the year – if you know where to look.

From the New Moon in April 2012 I’ll be adding a little challenge to this site. I’m calling it 365 Frankendael because I live close to that beautiful Amsterdam park. I aim to post a photo and comment about herbs I have found in and around Park Frankendael, every day, for a year.

I’m sure to be away for some part of the year so will appeal for a little assistance when those times approach. If you’d like to help out then please contact me.

I hope you like the idea and will enjoy watching the herbal year in Frankendael unfold.

Rose hips

Urban herb foraging

Rose hips
Rose hip harvest

There are many public spaces in the heart of Amsterdam where ripe herbal fruits,  leaves and flowers can be found at the moment.   Wild cherry, chickweed, dandelion, mallow, nettle, chestnuts, yarrow, walnuts and sloes, are just a few treats you could find.  Today I also noticed that scented geraniums have been planted in the tree pits on Mr Visserplein.  Urban herbs are rarely far away, growing on walls, roadsides, between paving stones and in untended spaces. Pollution from cars, people and pets mean that not all locations are suitable to harvest from, but urban foraging is good fun and can be very rewarding throughout the year.

Most people have foraged fruits such as blackberries at some time or other but few harvest herbs on a regular basis yet there are so many available to us!  This weekend consider taking a herb walk with family or friends, through some local green and relatively clean area of your city. Try to build your knowledge of local herbs and how to use them.  I’ll be looking for rose hips in my local park and will post a simple syrup recipe next week.  If you don’t feel confident enough to pick, then notice where a few useful herbs grow on your way to work or in your local park.  There are so many edible wild plants in this part of Europe, I’m sure more people could find and make use of at least one or two.

The following is a brief outline of how to set about foraging.  It is certainly not a full guide, you should consult a good book on the subject and perhaps join a weed/foraging walk in your area for further guidance.

Where to look:
I prefer to harvest from the greener parts of cities and in Amsterdam there is choice. We have some relatively clean canal side verges, lots of parks, trees on quiet roads and hedgerows away from main roads.  I avoid herbs from beside busy roads or other places where pollution is likely.  I also try to pick from as high up as possible, to avoid plant material that has been soiled by passing people and animals.

Mallow (Malva) growing by a drainpipe
Mallow (malva) growing by my drainpipe

How to identify the herbs:
Stick to herbs you are certain of and use a good field guide and foraging guide when harvesting any herbs you are new to.  Mostly I use The Wild Flower Key: British Isles – N.W. Europe, by Francis Rose and Food for Free, by Richard Mabey. The Self Sufficient-ish Bible, by Andy and Dave Hamilton is too big to carry around but is also a great foraging resource.

Picking rules:

  • Double check the identity of everything you pick (or consider picking). If in doubt don’t pick or use.
  • Forage easily identifiable herbs and avoid those which may be easily confused with poisonous relatives.
  • Try anything new to you in very small quantities.
  • Forage only from areas where there is plenty of the herb you are interested in.
  • Be considerate, careful and moderate.
    Pick sparsely to help conserve the health of the plant, it’s appearance and the wild animals it supports.  Never strip all the leaves, berries or whichever part you are interested in from a plant, however tempting.  Take only a little from each plant, leave plenty and avoid harming plants by rough picking.
  • Flowers or seeds of annual plants shouldn’t be picked, their seeds are needed for their survival.
  • Never pull up whole plants or pick from rare plants.
  • Have fun foraging!